“I thought we were lifeguards. … Everything you guys are talking about sounds like a really entertaining but far-fetched TV show.” – Zac Efron’s Matt Brody in “Baywatch.”
Just because you acknowledge you’re in a movie based on a kitschy TV show doesn’t necessarily mean you’re in a GOOD movie based on a TV show.
The movie version of “Baywatch” makes a number of references to the globally popular, brain-cell-destroying kitsch hit TV show from the 1990s.
We get scenes featuring sexy women moving in slow motion — with other characters commenting about how those sexy women appear to be moving in slow motion. We get the obligatory cameo appearances from original “Baywatch” stars David Hasselhoff and Pamela Anderson, with one of those appearances producing a mild chuckle and the other going absolutely nowhere.
And we get plot developments even more over the top and ludicrous than the ding-dong-dumb storylines from the cheesy TV show.
What we don’t get is a movie with an identity.
“Baywatch” earns its R rating with hardcore language and gross-out scenes — some involving corpses, some involving male crotch humor, and one that manages to involve a corpse AND male crotch “humor.” Most of the time the cast is going for big, broad laughs, but the bloated two-hour running time also affords plenty of room for B-movie plot about a stereotypically nasty b-word bombshell who casually orders murders and ruthlessly pursues her goal of becoming the dominant dealer of a meth-like drug up and down the beach.
“Baywatch” the movie stars Dwayne “No Longer the Rock” Johnson as legendary head lifeguard Mitch Buchannon and Zac Efron as the cocky and reckless trainee Matt Brody.
The enormously muscular Johnson and the super-shredded Efron spend most of the movie shirtless. Alexandra Daddario’s Summer Quinn, Ilfenesh Hadera’s Stephanie Holden and Kelly Rohrbach’s CJ Parker keep their tops on, but they’re squeezed into swimsuits and tight-fitting club outfits throughout the story. I mention all of this in the interest of accurate journalism.
Mitch isn’t just some fortysomething guy in a wooden tower, twirling his whistle and keeping an eye on the tides. In fact he’s more of a superhero than a mere lifeguard. Hardly a day goes by without Mitch performing amazing feats, from saving a woman and her two children from drowning to boarding a boat that’s engulfed in flames and dragging multiple hot women to safety. In fact we’re told he has saved more than 500 lives on his beach.
Five hundred! Apparently that beach is more dangerous than many a war zone.
Efron’s Matt is a two-time Gold Medal winner who fell from grace after a night of partying led to him throwing up in the pool during an Olympic relay race, costing his teammates their shot at gold and turning Matt into “The Vomit Comet.”
Matt is vain, reckless, cocky, selfish and quite dim. He signs on as a lifeguard trainee as a condition of his parole and announces he has no interest in being a team player and he doesn’t want Mitch to mentor him.
Gee, can you guess what happens?
Priyanka Chopra is wasted as the cartoon-like villain Victoria Leeds, who runs a swanky nightclub and is buying up all the properties along the beach, the better to accept the regular shipments of drugs arriving via boat. Victoria specializes in berating her henchmen, laughing cartoonishly at Mitch’s efforts to play policeman, and wobbling about on her high heels as she tries to execute one of the most tedious and ridiculous escape plans in recent memory.
Johnson and Efron are as likable as ever, but they’ve played better-developed characters on “Saturday Night Live.”
As was the case with “CHIPS” and “The Dukes of Hazzard” and “The Beverly Hillbillies” and “Car 54, Where Are You?” and I’ll just stop there, when you make films from junk TV, more often than not you’re going to wind up with a junk movie.
Lemons don’t make for lemonade. They make for Rotten Tomatoes.
Paramount Pictures presents a film directed by Seth Gordon and written by Damian Shannon and Mark Swift. Rated R (for language throughout, crude sexual content, and graphic nudity). Running time: 119 minutes. Opens Thursday at local theaters.